Semi-Retirement: Are You Cut Out For It?

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semi-retirement careersThere’s no rule that says retirement has to be a means to an end. As many people are proving nowadays, it can actually be a great chance at a fresh beginning.

Some people call it phased retirement. Others refer to it as semi-retirement. Essentially, it means working part-time in a job that’s different from your previous career. And it’s not uncommon: A recent CareerBuilder survey found that 60% of workers over the age of 60 plan to look for new jobs after retiring.

Intrigued? So were we, which is why we sat down with Nancy Collamer, author of “Second Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement,” to find out more about how people can make the most of this new trend.

LearnVest: What inspired you to write about semi-retirement careers?

Collamer: Despite the fact that we’d always done what the experts had advised—living below our means, maximizing our 401(k) contributions, etc.—my husband and I learned that, under certain circumstances (like the 2008 financial crisis), we could conceivably run out of money in our later years.

I’d also been a career coach for over 15 years, and my specialty was flexible work—generating income by using your skills and talents on a part-time basis. When I looked at what was being generally recommended for Boomers, I was seeing one of two lines of thinking: Either the “buy a vineyard, and live off the land” type of dream—not realistic for most folks!—or the “be an usher at a movie theater/greeter at Wal-Mart” advice. There are so many other things that people could be doing to generate additional income during retirement, so the book was born.

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Do certain traits make you more likely to succeed at semi-retirement?

As a therapist once explained to me, fear is often just an acronym for “false evidence appearing real.” What I discovered in the more successful “second act-ers” was that they didn’t let fear stop them from moving forward. Instead, they overcame it by taking small steps, such as gaining added skills and knowledge, which gave them the confidence to overcome their fears. One of the challenges with a second-act career is that you sometimes have to take a step backwards, so another trait would be a willingness to ask for help, while recognizing that risk—and failure—is part of the process.

When is the best time to start thinking about semi-retirement?

Ideally, I’d say three to five years before you’re getting ready to retire is a great time to begin the process. This may seem like an overly long timeframe, but the reality is that, the more time you allow, the more flexibility you’ll have to explore, research, test and refine your plan.

It’s also important to keep in mind that it may be a while until you can generate income via a new career. So the more time that you allow yourself to save money, the more flexibility you’ll have to retool and retrain when you’re ready to transition. Also, if you start thinking about what you want to do while you’re still employed, you may be able to take advantage of employee-sponsored training programs, workshops and conferences—helping you get that new career off the ground.

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